Saudi Arabia finally admits Jamal Khashoggi died in their consulate but claim it was a ‘FISTFIGHT’ and Trump says it’s CREDIBLE: 18 arrested, five intelligence officers fired but regime will not say where journalist’s missing body is
-Saudi Arabia has finally admitted journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead
-Saudi said in statement that Khashoggi died after a fight at the consulate
-18 suspects – all Saudi nationals – have been held in connection with the case
-Saudi Arabia fired the deputy intelligence chief Ahmed Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, the royal court adviser regarded as very close to the Crown Prince
-Saudi official said Friday the prince had no knowledge of details in the Khashoggi case and ‘certainly did not order a kidnapping or murder of anybody’
-Country is to restructure its intelligence agencies under Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the killing of Khashoggi
-White House said in a statement it is ‘saddened’ by the death of the Saudi
-President Trump said explanation for Khashoggi’s killing is credible
Saudi Arabia has finally admitted that journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead after offering various explanations for his disappearance more than two weeks ago.
The country has carried out its own investigation into what happened to the 59-year-old at its own consulate in Istanbul, Turkey and claimed Friday evening he died following an altercation on October 2.
This is the latest claim made by the kingdom, which earlier said Khashoggi had left the consulate alive and well.
Khashoggi, a critic of the crown prince, went missing after entering the consulate to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage. Days later, Turkish officials said they believed he was killed in the building, an allegation that Saudi Arabia had, until now, strenuously denied.
A follow-up statement, released by the Saudi Arabian ministry of foreign affairs, claimed that discussions between Khashoggi and Saudi officials at the consulate “did not go as required and escalated negatively which led to a fight between them … and led to his death”. It also claimed that officials, referred to as “suspects”, were involved in a “cover-up”.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Trump said Saudi Arabia’s announcement on the circumstances of Khashoggi’s death was credible and a “good first step” but that what happened was “unacceptable”. He also said he prefers that any sanctions against Riyadh not include canceling big defense orders.
The Trump administration has stressed it cannot afford to lose Saudi Arabia as a strategic partner. But it faces a sceptical Congress which may demand more convincing explanations of what happened to Khashoggi on 2 October.
The claim that Khashoggi, 59, died in a fight with Saudi officials who greeted him at the Istanbul consulate, prompted derision elsewhere.
“To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr Khashoggi is an understatement,” the Republican senator Lindsey Graham said in a series of tweets.
“First we were told Mr Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince.”
The California congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said Saudi Arabia’s claim that Khashoggi was “killed while brawling with a team of more than a dozen dispatched from Saudi Arabia is not credible”.
Schiff said if Khashoggi was fighting inside the consulate, he was “fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him”. If Trump’s Republican administration won’t hold Saudi Arabia accountable for Khashoggi’s death, Congress will, he added, according to Reuters.
Leaks from the Turkish authorities and independent reporting has shown that the kingdom’s most senior forensics expert was among a 15-man team sent from Riyadh on 2 October ahead of Khashoggi’s scheduled visit to the consulate.
They are reported to have brought a bone saw with them and the forensics expert, Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy, is said to have been recorded telling others to listen to music on headphones while he dismembered the body.
It will also be hard to convince global opinion that the crown prince, widely known by his initials, MBS, did not give the order. Several of the 15-strong squad sent to Istanbul were from his personal security staff.
The credibility of the Saudi court is already stretched to breaking point. From the day of Khashoggi’s disappearance until the early hours of Saturday morning, the official line from Riyadh was that the exiled writer, a US resident who wrote for the Washington Post, left the consulate before disappearing.
The question for western powers is whether this explanation is seen as a necessary and sufficient grubby deal to bring a disastrous episode to a close, or whether punitive sanctions will be required.
The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said in a statement that the US “acknowledges the announcement from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that its investigation into the fate of Jamal Khashoggi is progressing and that it has taken action against the suspects it has identified thus far”.
She added: “We will continue to closely follow the international investigations into this tragic incident and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process. We are saddened to hear confirmation of Mr Khashoggi’s death, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, fiancée, and friends.”
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